By Pfc. April Campbell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 4, 2008 - Making a positive impact, no matter how little, on the lives of Iraqis is a big part of current operations by coalition forces in the Fahama region. Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Platoon, Company D, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, serving with Multinational Division Baghdad and attached to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-68th AR, made this type of impact by bringing presents to school children Feb. 2 in this rural village.
The soldiers passed out backpacks, pencils and stuffed animals as the eager children swarmed around them.
Army Pfc. Dennis Romans, a Colorado Springs, Colo., native who serves as a driver, said handing out the goodies to the children reminded him of giving presents to his own three children.
"I just like seeing them smile," he said. "That's my thing. I love kids."
It was not the first time soldiers in the platoon handed out treats to the children. The Silver Lions make an effort to bring toys and other school supplies when they go on missions in case children are present.
"We try to bring out snacks and toys and sometimes pens," Romans said. "We're in an area where the kids don't have access to the things they need. I think they truly appreciate it."
Efforts like this help coalition forces build a good relationship with Iraqis living in their operational areas.
"It helps to gain the trust of the people," said 1st Lt. Nick Piergallini, an Easton, Pa., native and 1st Platoon leader with Company D, 1-68th AR.
Bettering the lives of the villagers is a process often requiring small steps. Piergallini and his soldiers took some of those steps with their gift-giving mission in Bayrk. Much still needs to be done for the school, which was built by soldiers in a previous unit who operated in the area. The school teachers told Piergallini about the lack of water and electricity there.
While the soldiers will work on finding a way to supply the school with the services, they know it cannot be done overnight. "There is no quick fix," the lieutenant said, "but we want (the villagers) to know that we are here to help."
Soldiers wrapped up the gift-giving mission to Bayrk by searching for more ways to help the people.
In an effort to help the local economy, the soldiers spoke to two village shop owners to find out if they could use micro-grants to help fix up their stores. The coalition's micro-grant program provides some shop owners with money to be used in repairing and renovating their businesses.
(Army Pfc. April Campbell serves in public affairs with the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.)